The government will continue to prioritise social mobility no matter who takes over as prime minister, the education secretary has said.
Damian Hinds said today it was a “good thing” that school funding and other education issues had been so prominent in the leadership campaign, adding that he expects his successor to continue to focus on improving outcomes for disadvantaged youngsters.
Education has been at the forefront of the Conservative leadership campaign, with several candidates having made specific school funding commitments and many others having spoken of the need to boost spending on the nation’s schools.
During a speech in London today, Hinds spoke of the important of tackling social mobility and admitted there was more to do to narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.
Asked for his message to the next prime minister, Hinds said that while he was supporting Michael Gove, he was confident social mobility would still be on the agenda even if his chosen candidate doesn’t win.
“Whoever is the next prime minister, I think social mobility is always going to be at the heart of a conservative government’s DNA and there’s a lot that has happened that is absolutely to be celebrated and actually a lot that’s happened that ministers from other countries want to hear our story about on things like school autonomy for example,” he said.
“So I think it will be at the heart of whoever takes the reins at Number 10, but there’s always more to do, so I was talking about the narrowing of the gap in disadvantage that’s happened so far. That is very strong progress but it still leaves a very very big gap so there’s still much to go up.”
Asked whether he felt the leadership candidates had “stolen his clothes” with their funding pledges, Hinds said he was “not worried about clothing”.
It follows reports that the prime minister Theresa May wants to make a big school funding announcement before she departs in July.
“I think it’s a good thing that education has been such a prominent topic in the leadership debates in the wider sense,” Hinds said.
“Part of that is about resourcing, but a number of other aspects of education have been prominent as well and I think that’s a very good thing.”
He also confirmed he would be prepared to serve in a government headed by Boris Johnson, who has emerged as the clear favourite in the leadership race.
“We are a team and whoever is the team captain, we’re a team.”